The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the good news.
I have used personal computers for decades now. I know pretty well how to make Windows operating systems work (as opposed to knowing how they work behind the screen.) But my children and my wife all chose to purchase Apple computers. What were they thinking? I have no idea how to make them work. Everything is different. They have a different operating system – different techniques to make them run, and more importantly, different structures operating in the background, beyond what we can see.
“Kingdoms” are realms of authority, in which certain systems established by the sovereign operate. The Kingdom of God which Jesus inaugurates is a whole different operating system than the system on which the world has operated. It is not merely a renovation of an existing system, a “be religious 2.0” – or a simple change in ethical behavior. It is an approach to life that upends the “be a good boy and you will be rewarded” mentality. It turns the values of the world upside-down. The kingdom of God is not based on merit, but on love. It operates not by legalistic rules, but by grace and the merciful decisions of the King of Glory. The reign of God lifts up the lowly and brings down the haughty. It celebrates the powerless and challenges the powerful. It moves the last in line to first place and those in front to the back of the line. It pays people the same whether they have worked one hour or all day. It leaves the ninety-nine at risk to search for the one. It suggests that to gain one’s life, one must lose it. It can feel crazy, impractical, unfair, and contrary to all we have learned growing up about the world around us.
For those who have been successful in the world, the Kingdom of God is a difficult operating system to accept. And yet, when we look honestly into our souls, we find that our own merit-based success has led us to a sense of entitlement. We discover we are no longer standing humbly in the presence of God, begging for mercy and gratefully receiving love and forgiveness. Instead, we find ourselves explaining how we have “been good and done good,” hoping it is enough to justify ourselves before God. Such justification will never work. It will never be enough.
What then shall we do, if we want to be a part of this Kingdom? The answer is pretty simple – just trust in the goodness of God shown to us in Jesus. In the Kingdom, it isn’t about what you have done, the hoops through which you have jumped, but rather what God has done FOR you in Jesus. Just trust him. It really is that simple.
Gracious God, set us free from our need to justify ourselves before you, instead bowing before you in humility and repentance. Then, O God, let us hear and appropriate your good news of salvation, live in the freedom of your love and grace. Amen.